Report: CNET news writers also told not to cover courtroom foes

Last week, CNET's tech writers were ordered not to praise a gadget made by a courtroom enemy of parent company CBS. Now, their news team has also been given its editorial marching orders. Tim Carmody at The Verge:

CNET and its staff have been put in an extraordinarily difficult position by CBS. They have to prove that what remains of their editorial independence is full and robust. They have to cover news controversies involving their publication and its parent company; these controversies necessarily involve some evaluation of the value of products and competing legal claims. And they have to do it without further antagonizing or embarrassing CBS.

Jim Romenesko writes that morale there is plummeting:
On Wednesday, CNET staffers in San Francisco went into an all-hands meeting hoping to hear that parent company CBS had reversed its policy banning CNET reviews of products that are part of active litigation — a policy that Columbia Journalism Review said “seriously damaged the tech review and news site.” ... CBS Interactive president Jim Lanzone and CBS Interactive general manager Eric Johnson announced the bad news at their meeting: There would not be a policy reversal.

The assumption seems to be that CNET's editorial culture is too weak to stand up for itself--that it's the sort of place where staff resign rather than get fired. But what if the air gap between CNET and its parent has simply exposed what is already normal inside CBS itself? There's a lot of schadenfreude going on around CNET's reputational immolation, but CBS is the salient entity--especially when it comes to how much power lawyers have over editorial operations.


  1. CBS has been doing a shitty job of representing the news for years. I’m not surprised or bothered by their recent actions, as I don’t pay attention to anything announced by CBS news.

  2. Regarding the resignations vs. being fired, let’s face it– this sort of “news” isn’t the sort of stuff anyone can get too riled up about anyway. Who’s going to go to bat and get fired over whether or not they got to review yet another silver iGadget?

    1. Someone with strong journalistic ethics. There’s a long tradition, sadly not always adhered to, of journalists being free from meddling from the business side of the shop. Some papers go so far as to forbid social contact between people in the ad department and people on the news side. The story may not be big, but the principles are.

    2. If either the Aereo or Hopper were “yet another silver iGadget,” and they’re absolutely not, CBS would not be in litigation over them.

    1. Is there any evidence that what’s happened at CNET hasn’t already happened to a greater or lesser degree at every corporate-owned media outlet?

      1. Right you are.  This is representative of corporate media rather than an exception, and it’s not just products but ideas which are off-limits in the corporate media, because it’s all about controlling perception.  They know that perception is reality in most people’s minds.  The end game is control and money.

  3. Congratulations to CBS for triggering the Streisand Effect, where overcautious governance draws attention to something (a product that may or may not be a better answer/solution/threat to CBS) and making even more people aware of how frightened CBS has become.

    Great work! Way to go!! Attaboy!!!

  4. CBS also owns the critic aggregator site Metacritic which I’ve used tremendously to evaluate new media at-a-glance. But recent events have made me believe that’s not so wise if they insist on downgrading their enemies for no more reason than that.

  5. CNET, as Tom would say, is dunzo.  I hope those I like – Molly, Cooley – find a home elsewhere.  TWiT?

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